Thursday, March 31, 2011

Product Review – Dexim AV Dock Station

Podcasts on an iPhone are a great way to keep up on current events, learn a language, or be entertained. Provided that is, that only one person wants to watch at a time and provided the phone is within an arm’s length away. Any further and the viewing experience tanks.

I’ve wanted to watch podcasts when I worked out in my home gym, as well as in my motel rooms, so I was excited to see the Dexim AV Dock Station for iPhone and iPods. It’s so simple that it only took 2 minutes to install and now I’m watching all my podcasts in 720p on a 37” flat screen. Most new motel sets also have component inputs so it makes sense to pack this little gem along for your next road trip.

The Dexim DRA022 is one of two models that play video and audio through your home theater. It uses three cables to deliver R, G, and B wires to the component video jacks and another two wires for stereo sound. The other model (DRA107) uses a single wire for composite video and two audio wires if your set does not accommodate component video.Both units come complete with a remote control so you can sit back and  relax while you watch.

Adapters are included for different model iPhones, iPods, iPod Touch and iPod Nano’s. The only other requirement is that you set your iWhatever to output a NTSC signal (for the U.S.) and poof, big, bold pictures on your home theater screen. Listening to audio is also improved by playing it through your larger system.

For parties, you can now watch downloaded movies as a group. You could also set your photo collection as a giant slide show, with pictures big enough for everyone to enjoy.

The Dexim products are available worldwide. Here in the US, check AT&, Brookstone, RichardSolo (online), Skymall and Target.

Product Review – H2Otugo drink holder

Airports are about hurry up and wait. Once you make it past security, if you are like most people, you’ve got another hour or more to wait before you’ll board your flight. Can you say Starbucks?

A refreshing beverage takes the sting out of waiting so long for your flight and for sure, a second drink is in order when your flight gets delayed. But did you ever try to balance a hot coffee or a water bottle on those skinny airport seat armrests? Didn’t think so. to the rescue with their tugo drink holder.

Most people seem to be pulling a rollaboard bag today and most of those have dual vertical supports for the handle. If that is you, the tugo has just the gadget you’ll want to investigate. With just a couple quick twists of its straps, the tugo hangs between your bag’s vertical handles and gives you a spill resistant cradle for your drink. (Watch this short video.) 

The tugo is manufactured in the USA and is made using materials without phthalates. Phthalates are plastic softening agents that are being phased out because of health concerns, but you knew that already didn’t you? The inventor, Karen Porte, is a nurse and she knew enough to watch out for you.

The tugo swings freely if you ever have to pull your bag to another gate. In its original form, the tugo would support up to a 20 oz. drink cup – hot or cold.  With an optional enclosed mesh insert, you can now also carry water bottles, baby bottles or canned pop.  With the mesh insert, it’s called the H2Otugo. Clever.

The tugo is $9.95 and the H2Otugo is $12.95. If you already own the tugo and want to upgrade, the mesh insert is available for $3.00. 

Tugo is available on their website or from dozens of retailers. See their site for a list.

Product Review – Stashsafe 200 – anti-theft hip pack

Some of our most exciting adventures come in places that are off the beaten path. Venturing into the unknown requires some street smarts and a healthy dose of preventative measures to insure our safety and the safety of our gear.

Such is the thought process behind the Pacsafe line of anti-theft travel gear. Since the majority of loses come at the hands of pickpockets, strap or bag slashers, bag snatchers or just plain gear thieves, it behooves us to take some measures of security to thwart these evildoers. Pacsafe specializes in doing just that.

Stashsafe 200 protects you multiple ways

Most hip packs can be unbuckled and grabbed by a professional bag snatching thief in one quick motion, usually before you realize what’s happened. The Stashsafe 200 hides its clasp under a Velcro flap and offers a padlock for ultra-security if deemed necessary.

Strap slashers can sever the strap on your bag in one second with a sharp enough knife and be off with your bag. The straps on this bag have a concealed stainless steel wire that will thwart any knife.

Bag slashers operate in similar fashion, cutting the bottom of your bag and letting all your gear fall to the ground, usually leaving you in an immediate state of confusion or worse, not realizing it’s happened. The bottom and sides of the Pacsafe bags offer an eXomesh slashguard to prevent this. Picture a miniature chicken wire, sewn between the layers of fabric, concealed from view but always protecting your gear.

Pickpockets work up close and can quickly flip the top of your bag open, reach inside and grab whatever feels valuable. With the Stashsafe 200, all zippers fasten to concealed clips requiring too much time for them to do it unobtrusively. 

Interior compartments for everything you need

The Stashsafe 200 has a total of 244 cubic inches of storage for all the stuff you need to carry,; but it’s not a big looking bag when worn on your waist. There are:
  • ·         Two main zippered compartments with pouches, mesh pockets and flaps galore.for change, business or credit cards, whatever.
  • ·         Hidden rear zippered pocket
  • ·         Three padded pockets for phone, MP3 and camera.
  • ·         Headphone port so your MP3 player can stay locked inside while you listen
  • ·         Key clip so those keys don’t get lost in the bottom of the bag
Obviously, you need to use common safety sense when traveling, but a pack like this takes one more thing off your mind so you can really enjoy the experience where ever life takes you. 

I got my Stashsafe 200 from Magellan’s has the widest possible variety of top brand travel products you’ll ever need and if you order by 2:00 pm PST, you can have it next day if you want. Check out their website or request a catalog. You won’t believe how many cool products they carry.

Product Review – Runnur – made for movement

Guys, if truth were known, have always been jealous of women’s purses. How nice to be able to have a bag with all your “stuff.” Guys have to make do with their pockets, because, at least in North America, man bags never really caught on. 

Now, courtesy of, there’s a solution available for guys of all ages. (Actually women will use them as well.) The new Runnur is a bandolier style strap with pockets and pouches for just about everything you’d normally try to stuff In your pockets.

Going clockwise around the strap, there are holders for your:

  • ·         Photo I.D.
  • ·         Credit cards, business cards, cash, and notepad.
  • ·         Pen and pencil/markers
  • ·         Smartphone
  • ·         MP3 player
  • ·         On the bottom is a carabineer for keys, a large DSLR camera, monopod or extra drink container
  • ·         Water bottle or extra camera lense goes in the mesh expandable pocket on the rear
  • ·         An extra zippered pack for whatever ( I use it for extra camera batteries and flashcards)
  • ·         Sunglasses holder with stiff sides for protection
  • ·         In addition, the back of the unit has a strip of highly reflective tape for safety at night
I’ve used it now on a couple photoshoots in place of carrying a shoulder bag for just one or two extra lenses. Since it fits like a messenger bag, from one shoulder to the opposite hip, there’s no way it’s going to slide off, even when I get way down low to the ground for that dramatic shot. 

The possible uses are endless for this product from photography to hiking, from biking to sightseeing. You’ll use if for just about everything except running – go figure. When you’re back home or in a restaurant, a convenient D-ring at the top easily hangs the unit from any coat hook. 

Watch the video and/or check out their website for available colors. The units are sized like you would buy a t-shirt, so order accordingly.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Product Review - Travelpro Crew 8

I recently had the opportunity to try out Travelpro’s Crew 8 Business Backpack and 22” Expandable Rollaboard Suiter. In a word – brilliant. It’s no wonder why so many flight crews swear by this luggage and use it every day.

The attention to detail is refreshing in a world where there are so many cookie cutter products competing for your dollar. With this line, if you are like me, you ‘ll be amazed at all the ‘ah-ha” moments as you start to actually pack your things. 

The 22” Expandable Rollaboard Suiter

Before using this 22” Rollaboard suiter, I would usually have to take a separate triple fold garment bag for my suit or sport coats, in addition to my 22” rollaboard bag. If I also had my computer backpack, that meant I had to check at least one bag. Such a hassle; and now, such an expense.

With this combination suiter and rollaboard, that’s a thing of the past. The top flap of the rollaboard case has a built-in, ingenious suiter sleeve that works quite elegantly and yet can be removed if not needed.  I used my Shelves to GO! unit in this case and it worked like a dream. I was packed and unpacked in nothing flat. 

I also love the dual post, i-beam extension handle used to pull the bag. It offers two different stops to adjust to either 38” or 43” lengths (really smart) and they say they have tested it to over 15,000 cycles. That’s really the last part of a bag that you want to break, and so often with cheap brands, that’s exactly what goes first. 

The other part that usually fails is the wheel. Rollaboards aren’t so convenient when only one wheel is left. (Sometime I’ll tell you about trying to pull a one-wheeled roller duffle bag a half mile through San Francisco.) With Travelpro, again they give you super high quality to start with, and then engineer the product to make it easy to replace when eventually you’ve just walked too far. One simple screwdriver and you can replace the wheels yourself.

The Business Backpack

The Business Backpack is equally a work of thoughtful design. With a quick loop, it will slide over the Rollaboard handle and sit snugly in place as you pull it to the gate. Opening the rear most zipper also reveals a swing-out computer sleeve that is TSA approved, so you don’t need to actually remove your laptop before going through the scanner.  The computer section will not hold a 17” or 18” laptop, but everything smaller fits quite well.

The backpack offers plenty of pockets and sleeves for just about any device you want to bring along. An iPod port enables you to route your earphone wires outside the pack while keeping your MP3 player tucked safely inside.  An expandable mesh pocket on the front of the carrying strap enables you to keep your phone easily accessible. 

When opening any zippered compartment, it’s nice to notice that all the fold out flaps have fabric hinges to prevent your belongings from falling to the floor should you release your grip. A pullout mesh pocket is also handy for that bottle of water you bought to bring on board. 

In the main compartment, there is a folder divider to separate your magazines, file folders, etc.  The nice part about this one is that it folds completely flat against the front wall of that section if you don’t need it. Without it being open, I was able to add a very large camera bag right into this section.

Another great feature is that every section of the bags have heavy duty metal pulls with a very large circle opening so they can be locked together. Using my GrabGuard, I was able to secure the backpack and the rollaboard to the metal seats in a couple different airports. 

If you are going to travel frequently and you haven’t researched the Travelpro line, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing. Check them out on-line at  for a list of on-line as well as brick and mortar retailers. 

For more views of the Travelepro Crew 8, watch the slide show below:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yuupon – real vacation deals without the hassle

Flash deals, Group deals, Bidding with chips; there are just so many ways to get bargains on vacation packages… IF… you can handle all the hassles. Most people don’t have a gang of 12 ready to go. Others don’t know exactly what date they can go in the next four months, so, many of these “deals” go unclaimed. Too much stuff to deal with. Let’s face it, after Cleveland’s winter, we are looking for somewhere to getaway, and we certainly want to leave the hassles behind.

Enter, a new site launched just today. Aimed at making the experience simple and hassle-free, it looks like they’ve succeeded. With deals of 45% to 90% off and with flexible dates, they plan to offer from 8 to 20 deals each week. The deals will range from mid-priced offerings to the high end packages.

You’ll have up to seven days to decide on a package and then you can book it with the date open for future selection. Nice. Once payment is received, a voucher is issued for the particular destination. The trips are even transferable. Super nice.

Even after purchase and payment, you‘ll have an additional eight days to get a full cash refund. After that time, a credit for a future trip will be given in lieu of cash back. Simply request cancellation before the date listed on the voucher. You’ll then be able to use your payment toward any other destination Yuupon lists.


Even if you aren’t ready to book a vacation immediately, you’d be wise to go to and register as a user.

Instead of going out and creating a big ad campaign, they are going to take $1 million dollars and disperse it randomly to the initial members signing up for this site. In increments of $10 to $1,000, members will be assigned vacation dollars called “Getaway Gold.” To earn even more “Getaway Gold,” like them on Facebook or tweet about them on Twitter.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Product Review – Shelves to GO!

Rarely do products come along that really revolutionize the way I think about travel. Shelves to GO! Is one of those products however. From the first time I used it, I was sold.

I met Gary Stout, president of Shelves to GO! at the 2011 Travel Goods Show in Chicago, where his product was selected as one of the top three most innovative products of the year.  It’s a product that takes only about 10 seconds to demonstrate and about 10 seconds to actually use when you get it home.

In its simplest form, Shelves to GO! consists of three lightweight, but rigged shelves, surrounded on three sides by a lightweight mesh, and suspended on either side by a strap with hook to go over your closet rod or closet door.  When hung in your closet, you just load them up with the clothing you plan to pack. They’ll hold up to 35 pounds of clothing. (You aren’t leaving for three months are you?)

Then, when everything is aboard, unhook from the closet rod and walk over to your rollaboard suitcase. With the suitcase open, align the two and lower the Shelves to GO! unit down into the main compartment. It flattens on itself as you lower the straps. Close bag. You’re done!  

It actually takes longer to explain it than it does to watch their simple, short video

There are two models available: 20 “wide for your 22” rollaboard and 18” model for the European style rollaboard. Included with the units are some packing suggestions with good information like how to keep pants and jackets most wrinkle-free. 

When you arrive at your destination, you can forget those dirty hotel drawers and just hang your unit from the closet rod.  Ten seconds and you are unpacked. How great is that?

Used and endorsed by flight crews around the world, the units come with a one year warranty. They can be ordered online at

Friday, March 25, 2011

Product review - Jabra Halo Headphones

When it comes to Bluetooth technology, hardly anyone does it better than Jabra. They’ve been providing Bluetooth devices of all types for years and now they’ve come up with yet another winner – the Halo Bluetooth wireless headphone. No flashing Bluetooth indicators, just a stylish, sleek headset that delivers great quality sound. Leave your phone in your pocket and control your music right from the headset. 

Looking at what was wrong with too many other headsets; the Halo addresses and solves these problems in a unique package.


TOO BIG TO BE PORTABLE Have you seen those big headphones that take up half your backpack? How practical is that? These are not only flat against your head, they also fold down into a third their open size. A travel case comes included.

POOR FOLDING DESIGN Way too many headphones are hinged right in the middle. Hey folks, that’s where the weight rests on the crown of your head. Why would you put a hinge there? Halo folds in three parts so the hinges are off to the sides where there is no pressure.

BATTERIES THAT DRAIN Jabra engineered these babies to automatically turn off when the sides are folded in for storage. No more run down batteries when you open them up. To recharge the internal batteries, simply plug into a USB port for 2 hours.

CAN’T DECIDE BETWEEN PHONE AND MUSIC Now you don’t have to decide. You can take your calls easily while listening to music on your phone by just pressing a button. The same button works to play or pause your music. Noise Blackout technology with dual microphones create clear voice signals so you can hear and be heard.

HARD TO ADJUST THE VOLUME This is one of the slickest design features of the Halo. Simply slide your finger up or down the outside edge of the right headphone to raise or lower the volume.

SWITCHING DEVICES Want to use your headphones with a non-Bluetooth MP3 player? No problem. Simply use the micro-USB to 3.5 mm music cable for all non-Bluetooth devices.
With Halo, you’ll be tempted to use your phone as your main multimedia center. No wires – how nice! Watch a virtual tour of the Halo here.

Jabra Halo headsets are available in your choice of black or black (hmmm), and can be ordered online at Jabra’s website or from should be Stop One when planning vacation

When you travel, what’s most important to you? Building up more frequent hotel points or getting a bargain on your room? If you are a point’s collector, stop reading.

If you’re like most Clevelander’s I know, and you are interested in saving on your travel accommodations,  you really need to spend some time checking out With listings around the world, connects property owners (with space to rent) to travelers looking to live more like a local. Typically the traveler saves money as a bonus. It becomes a win-win for both parties.

Property owners might list a single room, a suite of rooms, a whole floor or an entire house. Depending on the listing, it might accommodate one person or a dozen people. Most are available by the night, although a few require a longer stay. A good number of the listings start around $50 per night like this one. maintains an easy to use website for both scanning all available listings, as well as checking to see if the property you like has availability on the nights you desire. They have properties in 16,023 cities in 94 countries, so chances are good you can find something near where you want to go. There’s even a special section for the 50 and above crowd, with accommodations and amenities specially geared to their preferences. also handles the financial transaction so you don’t need to carry cash when you check in.  A 6-15% charge is added to the price shown to cover administrative fees (similar to a travel agent), but that’s the only extra fee you pay. No bed taxes, luxury taxes, CVB fees, nada.

Not sure about renting from someone you don’t know or staying in a shared residence? Not a problem. Each property owner has a complete profile listed. In their profile, you may discover another kindred spirit, another bird watcher or another mystery novelist. By the time you arrive, it’s like staying with a friend.

You can also read other travelers’ comments to see what they thought about each listing. In virtually every one I perused, the travelers loved being close to the vibe of the city, living like a local, with someone who could point out recommended sites and restaurants. Saving a ton of money ranked right up there as well.

You’ll even find accommodations for the corporate traveler who needs commercial space. During my road warrior days I would have given anything to get this deal in Chicago: a six room, two bedroom apartment set up for business; with computer, hi-speed Internet, scanner, laser printer, photocopier and fax.  Oh, and for creature comforts, how about a two person Jacuzzi, steam room, robes and slippers provided, along with DVD  player, library of movies and fireplace? All this for $245 per night – less than a boring plain-vanilla hotel room for $289 per night.


But wait…that’s not all. Coming to their website [by the end of March 2011] will be a new “Wise Ask!” button. Now for what could be the first time ever, you have access to a website where you set the terms and the owners bid for your business if they can fulfill your request. Feel like a weekend getaway in a place that has two bedrooms, parking for your car and jetski trailer and is within a five minute walk to the water? You set the terms, owners respond with availability and price.

Just want the cheapest place you can find, but they have to have a coffee maker with Kona Blend coffee? Honest, hit the “Wise Ask!” button and request away. It’s free – it’s fun – it’s new. And tell them Doug hooked you up.

Doug Bardwell, based in Cleveland, OH, writes about interesting new travel and photography topics across the country and around the world. Feel free to drop him a line at travel.dougbardwell@gmail.comwith suggestions for future stories. To get his stories delivered to your inbox, click the RSS feed or the "Subscribe" button above. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Theatre audio, but portable enough to travel

With wide-screen laptops, travelers can really enjoy DVD movies on the road…at least visually. The letdown is generally the sound quality. Some laptops can’t even be heard across the room. Orb Audio is one answer that deserves a look.

Orb Audio has created the theater sound we all want, but in a small form factor. Small enough even to take on your next road trip.  Now, when the family sits down to enjoy a nice hi-def Blu-ray disc, the audio will be up to the quality you’ve come to expect.

Each ‘orb’ is a four-inch, USA handcrafted ball with any of a number of metallic finishes. Each is rich sounding as well as rich looking – nothing cheap about these guys. For home, you can install 2 or more to your existing stereo amplifier for a true theater sound experience without giving up precious floor space.

For the road, you can buy a kit with two Orb speakers and a mini amplifier, suitable for all your entertainment needs. The Audiophile PylePro will handle your i-Whatevers, CD players, MP3 players, as well as your laptop. There’s even a ¼” microphone input in case you can’t help but sing along.

The amp puts out a nice 40W, room-filling sound with no perceivable distortion from the Orbs. The amp is only 2.76 inches high, 5.39 inches deep and 7.48 inches across, and works with any 110V or 220/240V system.

Orbs can be purchased online at their website. The special package of two Orb speakers and mini amp is presently priced at $299 and can be found here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Product review – Spiderpodium

For all those gadgets you own that don’t come with a stand, has an answer for you, and it’s call Spiderpodium. It’s a gadget holder extraordinaire. With as many legs as a spider and way more moves than Gumby, this thing will form itself to hold whatever you need held.

As popular as the iPhone is, the darn thing is just not easy to mount where you want it. Want to mount it in on your tripod to take photos or video – not  going to happen. Want to stand it up on a table to watch a video – good luck. Until now…

The Spiderpodium can handle all these with just a few twists and turns. It’s flexible appendages will form whatever shape you can imagine and hold your phone, your digital camera or maybe a GPS.

It will attach to your car seat back so kids in the back seat can watch iTouch videos. It will hang from your rear view mirror or from your a/c vents on the dash. It will even wrap around handlebars on your bike or your treadmill at the gym.

The possibilities are endless. When you aren’t using it, fold it flat and stick in your bag or glove compartment. You’ll be glad you did.

Spiderpodium is sold in black or white models, but I’d recommend the black as it won’t show the dirt as much. It’s also available in a larger model for your iPad and iPad 2.

Product review – texthook smartphone holder

If I could offer you a third hand, would you be interested? Who wouldn’t? Almost as good, that’s texthook – the dashboard for your mobile life. iPhone, iTouch, Blackberry, Droid, HTC, Palm – most whatever you’re carrying – it’ll hold them.

If I had a nickel for every time I saw someone pushing a stroller, riding a bike or pushing a grocery cart with one hand, and holding their phone in the other, I’d be a rich man. With all the things that a smartphone is capable of, it’s no wonder we never put it down.

There are great grocery shopping apps on the iPhone, but the phone slides right through the child seat on a grocery cart. Solution = texthook.

Smartphones now have awesome GPS apps but did you ever try holding one while biking through the park? Not safe (for you or your phone.) Solution = texthook.

Taking the baby for a stroll in the mall? Mom’s always need both hands available for those unexpected whatever’s. Solution = texthook.

On the treadmill at the gym? Want to watch a video on your iPod or iTouch? Solution = texthook.

With a convenient Velcro strap, the texthook will fasten to whatever handlebar you come in contact with. It’s connected in less than 10 seconds and now you have both hands free. The tilt can be adjusted in most directions to make sure the screen is comfortably readable.

Once you use it the first time, you’ll never leave home without it. Check out their website, where you can find a list of stocking retailers and a list of compatible phones.

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Product review – Digital luggage scale

Nothing frustrates me more than having to repack bags at the airport to avoid overweight charges. When you have to pay $50, $75, or even $100 additional each way, just one overweight bag can break a getaway weekend budget.

Well that’s a thing of the past if you have a good luggage scale. Cue lights…pull back curtain…introducing the  EatSmart Precision Voyager Luggage Scale.

Ergonomically designed for even the slightest woman to use, yet tough enough to handle a 110# bag, this is the best scale I’ve had a chance to use. With a full D-ring style handle, it’s easy to lift and weigh even your toughest bags.

The digital display is easy to read, shuts off automatically after 20 seconds and is powered by a long-life lithium battery. The unit only weighs 5.5 ounces, so you’ll surely want to pack it in your bag for the return trip. That’s when souvenirs, books and other accumulated “stuff” can make you overweight.

Also, there has been a long standing limit of 40# for bags in the overhead bins. Don’t be surprised to start seeing enforcement of that soon as airlines keep looking for extra ways to make more fees.

At home, I used to use a bathroom scale, which wasn’t convenient, but it worked. On the road however, most motels didn’t have scales, so I crossed my fingers a lot. Now I know for sure before I get to the airport. Priceless.

The EatSmart Precision Voyager Luggage Scale is available for sale online at their Amazon store. It comes with a two year warrantee.
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